Have you ever stopped to think about how recruiting has changed over the past few years? For those of us who rode the technology wave of the ’90s, the evolution of the recruitment profession is all too familiar. The role of technology moved from the wiring closet to boardroom, advancing along the way to a strategic entity within the organization. The advance, while painful and arduous at times, was driven by major technological changes spurred by the role of the Internet as a tool for communication and commerce. Likewise, the role of recruiting has evolved from administrative taskmaster to more of a coach or consultant. Although admittedly grueling at times, this new role has advanced steadily thanks in no small part to the never-ending war for talent (to use an overused phrase). But even under current economic conditions the melee persists. First, the problem was the need for the right talent going unmet, then it became the challenges caused by cutting too deep last year and trying to rehire that lost talent. And as if this weren’t enough: enter the first generation of recruitment technology. Recruiting has been on the verge of becoming a true strategic business partner for some time. But now, more than ever, access to the right talent at the right time and the right price is the key to an organization’s success. So what does this mean to the recruiting professional, and what can be done to get to the next level? Interestingly, there are many parallels between the shift in the role of IT within an organization and the evolution of the staffing function. I was discussing the concept with a colleague, Cynthia Nevels of Integrality, and she pointed me to several articles in the March issue of CIO Magazine. The more I read, the clearer it became. Recruiting can learn a lot from IT’s path to the boardroom. New Skills Needed In order to facilitate this advancement, recruiters will have to become much broader in their thinking and either possess or acquire an additional set of skills. The article “The State of the CIO” in CIO Magazine, for example, states, “CIOs must rely on a range of skills ó including communication, business savvy, management, and technical proficiency ó to continue to elevate the role…” The same can be said for recruiting. Of course, communication has always been a core competency for any recruiter, and the need to clearly express ideas, coach, and negotiate will become increasingly more important. But beyond the obvious communications with candidates, the improvement of internal communications with hiring managers and senior management is a must. Salesmanship and internal training are paramount to convincing others to share the vision and to accurately manage expectations. Many recruiters in the corporate world have been able to succeed merely by understanding their organizations’ hiring processes. As the role continues to be elevated, understanding the broader business strategy impacts the recruiter’s ability to quickly add value and will become essential to developing key relationships with other members of senior management. Again, we learn this from our technology counterparts. As technologists began to comprehend more of the business, they were better equipped to enable the business with the correct technology, positively impacting the bottom line. Understanding the larger business objectives enables the strategically minded staffing team to prioritize activities and avoid wasting resources. Management skills are also key in the new role of recruiting. Included here are financial management skills, especially since budgets have been cut and expectations raised. Project management and relationship management also go along with this set of skills. In a survey we conducted last year, which I’ve mentioned in previous articles, these skills were rated as being of low importance. But as the evolution has continued, these skills have found themselves moving toward the top of the list. Technical savvy is another area that’s become increasingly important. Gone are the days when a successful recruiter only needed a phone book and a telephone. The use of technology in the staffing function continues to change as we move beyond electronic resume repositories and the online version of the printed want ads. Recruiters must understand the ways technology can and can’t be used in order to transform themselves from distributors of information to business partner. Knowing that traditional online recruitment only equates to a small percentage of hires, recruiters must begin to consider ways to leverage technology to build relationships and integrate technology into recruitment processes. Hurdles It’s important to know that the journey of the technologists has not been without hurdles. The CIO Magazine article listed three key hurdles to the success of the CIO:
- Lack of key talent or problems with retention
- Inadequate budget
- Not enough time for strategic planning
Ironically, these same hurdles exist for recruiting as well. As for key talent, the primary mission of the recruiter is to identify and recruit the right talent. This continues to be a challenge no matter what the prevailing economic conditions are. As for inadequate budgets, recruiters are being asked to do more with less. Possessing new business skills will better equip the recruiter to implement cost avoidance measures within projects, while taking steps to link their strategies directly to the corporate objectives. In this way, recruiters can add immediate and measurable value. Finally, as for not enough time for strategic planning, recruiters also have little time to think and act strategically in this highly reactionary marketplace. I hear this frequently when speaking with groups of recruiters. But working closely with senior management to understand corporate objectives and linking them to staffing efforts, exercising business management skills, and leveraging technology appropriately all will free up time to focus on more strategic planning and more sensitive talent management issues. So what’s the bottom line? The ability for a corporation to attract and retain key talent impacts the value of an organization. Financial analysts already have indicated this, giving the nod for staffing specialists to shift roles and become talent management partners within the organization. As recruiters, the keys to success with this evolution can be taken directly from our IT counterparts:
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- Increase our understanding of the overall business.
- Develop our management skills.
- Link our efforts to the corporate objectives.
- Leverage technology.
Developing these skills will help transform the recruiting professional into a strategic asset to the organization.